Guy Robert Rowlands, F.R.Hist.S.


  • KY16 9AR

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research overview

My principal research interests lie in the history of war; in the emergence of the modern European state in the late 17th and early 18th centuries during an era of intense warfare; and the nature and development of international relations in the period 1598-1792. My primary focus thus far has been upon France, the greatest power of the age, during the personal rule of Louis XIV (1661-1715) and the regency for Louis XV (1715-23): my work has so far looked primarily at the armed forces and the financial systems associated with the French state during this period. I have also been widening the scope of my research to take in the longer time-frame of 1589-1789 while also increasing my geographical range to take in aspects of the history of Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, northern Italy, the Spanish empire and Switzerland.


Research interests

My research interests lie principally in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French history, especially France’s mobilisation for war, and the relationship this bore to the political, financial and social set-up within the country.

My first book, The Dynastic State and the Army under Louis XIV. Royal Service and Private Interest, 1661 to 1701 (Cambridge, 2002) examined how Louis XIV and his ministers were able to increase the size of the French army five-fold over a period of 30 years, and it stressed the importance of integrating the private interests of noble families into calculations of how to organise the state.

My second book, The Financial Decline of a Great Power. War, Influence, and Money in Louis XIV's France (Oxford, 2012) is a wide-ranging exploration of the French fiscal, credit and expenditure systems, with the aim of explaining how and why the state's financial power and solvency declined so dramatically in the years between 1700 and 1715. It emphasises the corrosive influence of private financial interests upon which the king depended to fight the War of the Spanish Succession.

My third book - entitled Dangerous and Dishonest Men: the International Bankers of Louis XIV's France - was published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2014. At the start of the eighteenth century Louis XIV needed to remit huge sums of money abroad to support his armies during the War of the Spanish Succession. This book explains how international bankers moved French money across Europe, and how the foreign exchange system was so overloaded by the demands of war that a massive banking crash resulted. It will provide not only the first comprehensive study in English of the international banking system during this period, as it relates to France, but it will also explain how and why some bankers managed to achieve such importance that they could not be allowed to fail and had to be bailed out when crisis struck their operations. The book also reveals the remarkable weakness of the French absolute monarchy in the face of the secretive world of international banking.

My next research monograph will be an expansive examination of the artillery and arms industries of France between 1661 and 1716, as part of a larger project - for which I shall be seeking major funding - on the relationship between war, the fiscal-military state and civilian contractors in the period c.1660-1730.

I also have extensive interests in war and international relations in the western world between the end of the Thirty Years War (1648) and the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789), while I also maintain interests in Jacobitism on the continent between 1688 and 1720, in European courts between 1500 and 1800, and in amphibious warfare between the late 15th and the early 19th centuries.


Future research

My next major book will be the first comprehensive study of the French artillery service and the arms industries that were administered in close relation to it during the reign of Louis XIV. During his rule the number of heavy weapons available to the monarchy increased considerably, but there was little improvement in the quality of the guns, or in the oversight of the arms manufacturers, allowing for considerable corruption in manufacturing and supply. Moreover, this was symptomatic of the weakness of the state's organisation of its artillery corps, which was understaffed by officers and officials who were too often professionally incompetent, and whom the state abused financially with counter-productive effects on military power.

I am also editing a volume (jointly with Julia Prest) of specialist essays on aspects of the later reign of Louis XIV (c.1685-1715) for the 2015 anniversary of this king's death, centred around the question of whether Louis had a "third reign" (after the period 1643-61 and the first decades of his "personal rule") and when that might be said to have begun. Authors are now secured. Publication envisaged in 2016.

Over the longer term my research will take on a more international hue, as I have two major projects I have been working towards now for two decades: (1) the first comprehensive international study of the Nine Years War (1688-97), based on extensive research in several countries; (2) an examination of the foreign soldiers who served France or were financed, in exile, by France during the personal rule of Louis XIV, again based on massive research in several countries.


Industrial relevance

The scope for broadcasting and exhibition-mounting on my current research area has increased in the last few years and will continue to grow in the next decade: 2013-14 has seen the tercentenaries of the treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt which brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession (for which I acted as a consultant for an exhibition at Utrecht, and contributed to the exhibition catalogue); 2015 sees the tercentenary of the death of Louis XIV, who enjoyed the longest and one of the most remarkable reigns in European history; and with the ongoing financial crisis in the western world, likely to go on for years to come, my work on the financial decline of France and the financial paroxysms of the early eighteenth century should provide opportunity for public activity on a variety of levels.

More generally, in the coming years I shall be seeking funding for a major project on the relationship between war, civilian contractors and the fiscal-military state in the early decades of its emergence, c.1660-1730. In recent years civilian contractors have once again become extremely important for the military establishments of a number of western powers, most notably the USA and the UK, and there remain serious ongoing concerns about how to make the relationships between civilian contractors and the state work effectively and efficaciously. At present, though, policymakers have a very limited awareness and understanding of the roles that civilian contractors - as agents, suppliers, venal office-holding administrators and so on - played in servicing the land and sea forces of European states in the first few decades after the sovereign state emerged in clearly recognisable form. I hope in the coming years to be able to share insights with those active in present-day public affairs into such matters as contract negotiation, credit and payment operations, service delivery, indemnification arrangements, mobilisation, and the structural relationships between different sorts of contracts and the state machinery.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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